James C. Hemphill, Jr. is remembered by the architectural community as a pioneer in the practice of architecture not only for the significant buildings for which he was responsible, but also for mentoring other architects and for shaping fundamental guidelines of the profession. His contribution to the standards of practice started with the architectural profession in Charlotte and spread to influence the principles of architectural practice for North Carolina and eventually, the United States.
Among Mr. Hemphill’s early projects, which he oversaw as Principal Associate for Odell and Associates, is the Charlotte Coliseum, now known as Bojangles’ Coliseum. At the time of construction, the Charlotte Coliseum was the largest unsupported dome in the world. Hemphill, Jr. also was responsible for the architectural project management of the Charlotte Public Library, the development of the Charlotte Memorial Hospital, and the Baltimore Civic Center. He also produced significant courthouse and governmental projects such as the Strom Thurmond United States Courthouse and Federal Office building in Columbia, S.C. in joint venture with Marcel Breuer.
During the late 1950’s, Mr. Hemphill was instrumental in transforming the Charlotte Council of Architects into the Charlotte Section of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and wrote its by-laws. Since that time, he served as President of the Charlotte Section of the AIA, President of the NC State Chapter of the AIA, President of the NC Board of Architecture, Chairman of the National AIA Document Review Committee, President of the Charlotte Chapter of the Construction Specification Institute, National Director of the Construction Specification Institute, Member of the NC Advisory Council for the American Arbitration Association, President of the Charlotte Civitan Club, a founding member of the Charlotte Tree Commission, and Chairman of Environmental Quality Control for Charlotte. At the end of his career, he wrote a book on the history of the Charlotte area and founded the Charlotte History Roundtable.
Hemphill, Jr. wrote the Uniform System for construction specifications that are used today by every architectural office in the United States. As National Director of the Document Review Committee for the American Institute of Architects, he set a standard for contracts not only for architects but also for general contractors and engineers throughout the country.
Many students of architecture, architectural apprentices, and professionals also know Jack Hemphill, Jr. as a mentor. He influenced and mentored other notable Charlotte area architects, including Harvey Gantt, Jeff Huberman and Tomas Turner. Gantt later pursued a career in politics, serving as a Charlotte City Councilman and Mayor of Charlotte. Huberman and Turner both stayed in the architectural field. Huberman was the President of the North Carolina Chapter of the AIA and presided on the North Carolina Board of Architecture. Turner was also the President of the North Carolina Chapter of the AIA and former Vice President of the National AIA.
Hemphill, Jr. served as a lecturer at Clemson University for ten years. He also founded the Charlotte Architect’s Collaborative, which is an on-gong support group for small architectural practices. During the 1960’s, Mr. Hemphill was concerned that the architectural practice was an all-white profession and took steps to identify promising African-American college students in North and South Carolina, recruited them, employed them, and mentored their professional advancement.
It is also important to note that Hemphill, Jr. received the highest honor given by the American Institute of Architects. The letters FAIA following his name means that he was elected to the AIA College of fellows, an honor only a few architects receive each year. Additionally, all three architects Hemphill, Jr. mentored also received the FAIA. Clearly, Jack C. Hemphill, Jr. left a lasting legacy in the architectural world.